Kenya’s Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD), the arm of government mandated to design and implement curriculum reforms, have started on a journey to transform the education of Kenya’s children.
The implementation of reforms started in 2017, with the piloting of Pre-primary levels 1 and 2, and Grades 1 and 2 in 470 schools across the country. This pilot was rolled out on a national level in January 2018.
Opposition to these reforms have come from teachers, parents and politicians, most of whom lack understanding of the new Competency Based Curriculum or how it could potentially impact children.
When we met with KICD, they shared the story of one school where there was an outcry from parents claiming that ‘teachers were not teaching’. When KICD officers asked to know more, they realized that because children were not being given the same burden of homework as they were previously, the parents concluded the teachers were not doing their job, without understanding that the methods of learning under the new curriculum are massively different to what they are familiar with.
The new curriculum sees a transition from focus on content, to focus on competency. It has more flexibility for teachers and learners. There is a definite move away from the current summative exams, which are like an overwhelming mountain at the end of primary, then the end of secondary school which, if you fail to summit, marks the end of your education journey and, for many, confines you to a life lacking opportunities to progress. The new curriculum places emphasis on education, rather than on schooling. Teachers will no longer be teaching simply to finish the syllabus, but will be teaching for learning!
The Vision of this new curriculum? That each child would be a citizen who is engaged, empowered and ethical. The reforms are designed to ensure that no child is left behind, echoing the clarion call of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Of course, none of this will happen without significant resource, goodwill, and dedicated technical expertise, invested over an extended period of time.
A crucial ingredient for the success of these reforms is clearly; teachers. KICD shared that, initial reflections from teachers involved in the pilot of 2017, indicated their appreciation of a curriculum that is flexible, learner centered, and focused on instilling values in learners.
However, teachers also had a myriad of concerns. How would they implement this with their current constraints on resources (including a lack of digital resources), and large class sizes? Where would they find time to plan lessons and ensure they integrate the prescribed values and other contemporary issues?
In the course of training, monitoring and supporting teachers for the implementation of the curriculum reforms, KICD also noted that teachers were struggling with the pedagogical shift required. The majority of teachers don’t have the skills they need to design formative assessments, or to prioritize activity-based learning to name just a few.
The implementation of curriculum reforms in Kenya is further complicated by the significant number of children learning in private institutions (never mind those not in school at all!). Kenya has literally thousands of private education providers who may or may not have engaged with the curriculum reforms, and may have limited skill and resource to implement the reforms. How can KICD and civil society work together to ensure no child is left behind?
Another crucial ingredient for the success of these reforms? Parents. It is only recently that parents have been engaged as stakeholders. With the introduction of the Competency Based Curriculum, parents’ pivotal role in their child’s education has been recognized by KICD. Parents are typically the first, and best nurturers, and have a shared responsibility with schools to provide an enabling environment that is conducive to learning. Parents need to be empowered and skilled to do this.
Of course, in our work as civil society, we see different categories of parents – there are those who understand the importance of school but don’t know how to support their child’s learning, those who see no value in school, and those with such low literacy levels themselves they struggle to support their child’s learning.
KICD have a long journey ahead. The new curriculum will not be fully rolled out until 2027. KICD made clear that they are keen to learn along the way. They want to consistently monitor and evaluate the implementation of the reforms, so that they are consistently reflecting, learning and improving.
As a team, we concluded our interaction with KICD with a sense of hope for the future of our education system, and a desire to leverage our own technical skills and organizational synergies as a means of support for the curriculum reforms.
At the end of the day, we are all working towards a shared goal: that each child gains the skills and strength of character they need to thrive and succeed in the 21st century.
Contributor: Deborah Kimathi – Executive Director